[OPINION] Going back to basics under the new administration 1

[OPINION] Going back to basics under the incoming Marcos administration

Ed Tayao

Posted at Jun 16 2022 11:03 PM

Now we all face real problems. The year long, even more, of overdrive exchanges of asinine political views hopefully are now over or at least significantly scaled down. Jaundiced reports and media programs remain, but I guess that’s already expected; even to remain so the whole term of the new leader. More than the new President’s being the son and namesake of former President Marcos, the campaign, intended or not, was really polarizing. Rightly or wrongly, those who voted for the losing party are led to think that they themselves lost and/or that they are the only ones who know and acted on what is right.

Then there are those who have been making an effort to offer more objective views on the myriad of political issues raised in the elections. Unfortunately, these views have often been also dismissed as favoring the winning candidate. If only we can reflect on the real reasons why our politics and governance are how it is, more than just taking sides and arguing endlessly. The point is that our country’s history will always generate extreme emotions no doubt, what with the many issues and controversies that remain unsettled, even unanswered.

Previous administrations could have given priority to putting closure to these issues and controversies. We could have taken a leaf from other countries which had similar histories; forming commissions tasked to settle polarizing issues. Previous leaders could have also put in place much needed reforms to correct our archaic political system. But no, not enough effort was brought to bear to accomplish any of these; it is even arguable if serious thought was given to any and all of these fundamental measures. It should not come as a surprise then that our politics remain limited to the same names and elites that have time and again fought for power before.

If at the very least we managed to reform our political system, even just institutionalizing political parties, we would not have been bickering still about a naïve sense of nationalism and or patriotism. As has been mentioned in previous writings, there was in fact a multipartisan effort in the House of Representatives to pass a law reforming our political party system. It was successfully passed in the third and final reading, only to be mysteriously set aside in the Senate. That was a serious setback as it was a glaring indication that many in positions of power are not willing to change the rules of politics.

The question of the appropriate political system has always been there. Still, however fundamental the question is, it seems we have yet to really give it serious, that is focused, engaged and sustained endeavor to see it through. Pursuing systemic reforms are also held hostage by the very malady we are trying to address. It is of course expected that those already in power would not be inclined to change the rules of the game as precisely they are already in power and thus of the thinking that if the rules are changed, their remaining in power might be placed in jeopardy.

The challenge is to convince them that it is also to their advantage to pursue systemic reforms. Any leader should know, or if not would likely know that even if her or his disposition is to do good, under the current political setup, one can only do so much, at best palliative measures and/or much compromised supposedly well-meaning initiatives. However substantive and beneficent one’s cause is, soonest it proves to be politically costly given the prevailing political setup, self-preservation will always be instinctive. How many times have we seen champions before who wavered in the process?

Déjà vu, initiatives to pursue systemic reforms have started. Once again different groups and personalities are jockeying for positions to get involved. Hopefully, the story will be different this time. Hopefully, the different groups that have been wanting to pursue systemic changes can at least agree to non-negotiable features of a new and appropriate political, including economic system, to pursue. Hopefully, all those involved will realize that they have to stay united in pursuing reforms. Substantive debate/s on the provisions would surely ensue, but only when it’s clear that many are agreed to see through reforms to the end. Regardless of personal motives, hopefully all initiatives connect and successfully find fruition.

As we pursue systemic reforms, the country also faces urgent issues. This should not be taken to mean that systemic reforms can wait while we address day-to-day problems. In the first place, our day-to-day problems are there because of the prevailing decrepit political and governance setup. Then again, we should address these problems simultaneously and despite the limitations of the current setup should not deter us from considering effective measures. This we can start by knowing what the priorities are.

No doubt we have to recover. This is a tall order. No doubt, the pandemic wreaked havoc everywhere in the world, but we have to take note that we are a developing country. The losses we have sustained are debilitating. As experts have already advanced, compared to other more developed countries, it will take time for us to recover and get back to where we were before the pandemic. I believe this is the reason for the slogan of the winning team, “Babangon Muli” from the havoc brought by the pandemic.

Food, energy and employment encapsulate what are most needing focus by the administration. Not that these are something new. These have always been the most critical day-to-day issues the country faced even before. What makes it all the more difficult now is that we are as if starting from scratch. Whatever gains we may have managed to achieve before, whatever momentum we had, are likely lost because of the pandemic. Countless lost their jobs as many businesses, especially small and medium scale enterprises, closed.

The issue of food is to me a conundrum. We are still, and it is good that we remain an agricultural country. Being agricultural is not backward; there are many countries that have been agricultural ever since and built their economies with it as the foundation. Japan for example may have advanced industries, but among these industries include agriculture. We have also been doing the same before but for some reason have lost track of it and instead now rely so much on international trade for much of our food requirements. With the advances in technology now, there should be no reason, other than selfish interest and partisan gains, for us to get back on track, resuscitate and develop agriculture as an industry. This will in fact open up other industries like food processing and tourism; industries we already have at the intermediate stage and therefore a matter of taking it a notch or two higher to compete globally.

It is to be noted that we are a people who love to eat and cook. Any and all industry that includes food is part of our nature. Every province and or region has a unique cuisine to boast. Longganisa alone is an interesting food product; every province has a different version that everyone can’t help but crave for one of which at any given time. Noodles or pansit is also a favorite fare everywhere and also prepared differently in different places. There is so much more from soups to stews, seafood, vegetables and meat. Then there are different kinds of kakanin, colorful and savory. To top all of these, every region also boasts of its own coffee that goes very well with our kakanin.

If we can only consider first what we already have around us instead of looking far and in the process relying more on other countries for what we need, we’d likely be much better off. I am pleased to know that we are hearing this strategy from those earlier announced to be part of the new cabinet. Our incoming tourism chief, who is not only a lawyer but has also served as a local chief executive, currently the Mayor of Liloan in Cebu, broached a more forward-looking take on tourism for example. Her pronouncements to promote food tourism only shows how much she recognizes the strengths of the Philippines. In the first place, tourists, or anyone would necessarily look for food when they travel, and what better way to complete their experience of the local vibe if they sample the local fare.

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Not only does Mayor Christina Frasco understand food as a critical component to Philippine tourism, she has also expressed that the next big step to take is to promote the still largely little-known tourism gems in the Bangsamoro region; not only in the mainland but also in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi. Of course, like clockwork, those who have always professed to be knowledgeable about everything have shot down the proposal right away, arguing that no one would consider those places because of security.

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Never mind that these places brag of natural beauty that even the more popular Boracay and or Bohol cannot offer. Never mind that with BARMM already in place, it has already accomplished a lot in ensuring peace and development in the region. There may still be reported sporadic security problems but nothing amounting to how it was years before. Besides, when tourism picks up in the region, there will be every reason for everyone there to ensure a really welcome and reassuring atmosphere to protect and grow the industry, which obviously will benefit everyone in the region.

Another official-designate, to me, the doyen of political science in the Philippines, especially foreign policy and national security, Dr. Clarita Carlos is another promising choice of the new administration. I have high respect for this seasoned lady as I have worked closely with her for years and have seen not only her dedication and probity, but most especially her ability to translate scholarship to policy. She served not only as professor of Political Science in the University of the Philippines, she also served as president of the National Defense College of the Philippines, the very institution that retools the officers of the country’s armed forces. There may be so many accomplished academics no doubt, but we can only count a few who have the competence to have what they have supposedly learned to good use, that is, in terms of policy interventions if not programs and or projects. Don’t take my word for it, I’m sure you have seen her aptitude in full display on her many live media interviews.

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We can already foresee a new direction, a different take at national security for the country. More than the usual national security approach from the usual military perspective, the new National Security Adviser has shared to the public a befittingly more inclusive take. Dr. Carlos disclosed that human security will be pursued, which, for all intents and purposes is pertinent to the context of the country’s politics and governance. If we are to consider for example, what interventions worked in the past administrations, not only as far as national security is concerned but also in addressing the ultimate problem which is poverty, these are the ones that tackled head on the problem on human security; a more holistic take on national security that includes, food, health, and environmental management. This does not mean of course that the military factor will be at the back seat, but will be complementing all the more basic issues mentioned.

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We don’t have to stop being vigilant. That is our duty as Filipinos. To wish the new administration and President ill is something else entirely though. In the first place, if the government fails, who will really be at the losing end? The new government has yet to start and we have already been seeing and hearing brickbats being thrown left and right. If for some reason, some pronouncements made or policies or initiatives undertaken are found wanting, perhaps it would be better to offer alternatives instead. It will be for the best if we afford the new administration at the least, the benefit of the doubt.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.